We can build hugely successful companies -- just not by ourselves. Scaling requires knowing how to get the very best from your most important assets: your team members. Here's how to do it.
For many entrepreneurs, success breeds success -- but only up to a point. Once we reach a certain level of success, we start to wobble and find it difficult to scale up. To break through, we need to manage our teams more effectively. Shifting our mindset from "I can do it" to "we can do it" becomes a huge driver of our ability to accelerate our success.
Trouble is, our hard-charging, quick-start entrepreneurial personalities aren't always a natural fit for playing nice with others.
So it's great news that guys like Robert Hirsch exist to help us. Robert is a lifelong entrepreneur who started his first company at 16 and who has been instrumental in helping six companies scale from $5 million in revenue to $50 million or more.
He recently shared with me four strategies to get your team on board for maximum growth, without burning them out.
1. Gain buy in. You may be clear on your path to growth, but your team needs to share that clarity so you can all move in the desired direction together. To that end, Hirsch holds off-site meetings where he spells out and seeks input on where a company is, where it's going and how to (as he puts it) "build the railroad" between those two points. "Once we have that agreement as a team and we all sign off on the dotted line, any decision that falls outside of that path has to be agreed upon by the management team," says Hirsch. "That really keeps us focused."
2. Assign ownership. Each team member needs to feel a sense of true accountability for his or her part in the growth journey. That's why Hirsch recommends that each executive member of a team "own" a specific key performance indicator. For example, your VP of sales might be responsible for tracking revenues, while your VP of operations might own gross margins. These performance indicators should be reported to the entire executive team weekly to create accountability and ensure that everyone is always clear on their roles and responsibilities.
3. Keep them motivated. Well-executed weekly meetings can be instrumental in ensuring your team stays fired up and pointed toward your vision. Hirsch recommends that teams hold a "Three to Five" meeting every Monday. At these meetings, the team outlines its strategic focus for that week -- highlighting three to five key tasks to be accomplished over the next five business days that will further the company's overarching goals. "This helps ensure you keep moving the ball forward each and every week," says Hirsch.
Then each Friday, hold what Hirsch calls "Friday Afternoon Club" where you remind everyone of the firm's strategic vision and report on the progress made on that week's three to five goals that support that vision (this creates further accountability among the team). Once that's done, spend at least 10 minutes in an intensive brainstorming session where anyone -- from top executives to the newest customer service rep you hired last week -- can offer feedback, ideas and recommendations for improvements. This all-inclusive approach is key. "The customer service people know so much more than you do. They're an untapped goldmine of information that you can institutionalize to help you scale up," says Hirsch. "Our best ideas come from the people that are actually talking to the customers, not the people that are sitting in the big corner office in the Ivory Tower."
4. Don't sugarcoat the truth. Face it: The road from $5 million to $50 million (or more) in revenue isn't always smooth. Scaling up involves growing pains, and many entrepreneurs are scared of admitting -- to themselves and especially to their teams -- the challenges that naturally accompany change. Don't make this mistake. Be upfront and honest with the entire organization about the difficulties that might crop up as you grow your business -- or else risk losing key players along the way. "If you tell your people that the sky is not blue or that it's not going to be painful to change, you lose the buy-in you've worked hard to achieve -- and that's a critical piece," notes Hirsch.
Then go one step further by helping any concerned team members understand that today's challenges will pay off down the road. In Hirsch's case, he puts his own spin on the old adage "this too shall pass." He explains: "I tell them 'It sucks now, but it's different later.' So when they look at me and say, 'This is so hard' I can say, "Yes, it sucks now, but what's going to happen later?" And they reply with, "It will be different."
Every day at AES Nation, top entrepreneurs offer their best strategies, tactics and advice for becoming hugely successful and enjoying the great quality of life that we all seek.